The odds of record-setting jackpots in the Mega Millions lottery will improve tremendously after California joins the multistate game later this year.
The nation's most-populated state will bring an influx of new players and money that promises to boost the lottery's prize pool for players in all Mega Millions states.
"Jackpots will grow much faster and at much higher levels," said Carole Everett at the Mega Millions lottery's headquarters in Baltimore. The lottery is drawn in Atlanta.
California will become the 12th state to join the Mega Millions family, choosing the game over the other major player in the multistate lottery field -- Powerball, which is drawn in Des Moines, Iowa, and played in 27 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
California's lottery board voted 3-0 Tuesday to choose Mega Millions over Powerball. The big attraction for the state was the lottery's drawing dates, said Cathy Johnston, a California lottery spokeswoman. Mega Millions is drawn at 11 p.m. ET on Tuesday and Friday. Powerball drawings are held on Wednesday and Saturday, the same days California holds its state Lotto drawings.
There have been three jackpots of more than $300 million in the United States -- two for Mega Millions, one for Powerball -- and Everett says a $400 million jackpot certainly is possible for Mega Millions with California on board.
The nation's record jackpot was $363 million shared by two Mega Millions winners in May 2000. Mega also had three winners of a $331 million jackpot in April 2002. Powerball's record provided the largest single winner with its $314.9 million jackpot won on Christmas Day 2002.
The odds of a single ticket winning the Mega Millions jackpot are one in 135,145,920.
With California, Everett says the Mega Millions' starting jackpot likely will change -- it's $10 million now -- and some of the top prizes below the jackpot may possibly be increased. (Players currently win $175,000 when they match five numbers, but miss the Mega Ball number. Those with four of the five numbers plus the Mega Ball win $5,000.) Any changes must be approved by the directors of the participating states.
"We were disappointed, but we wish them the best of luck," said Charles Strutt, director of Des Moines-based Powerball. "The lottery industry is a pretty small world. We have lots of friends in California and in Mega Millions."
Strutt said tweaking of the Powerball game will continue.
The biggest difference in the two multistate lotteries is that Powerball has a power-play concept that costs an extra dollar and increases the value of all prizes below the jackpot from two to five times the face value.
Both games generally pump half of their receipts back to payouts for players, with the rest going to the government, administrative costs of the lottery and bonuses to retailers who sell tickets.